By Mike Paradise
At long last harness racing returns to the Chicago circuit tonight. It has been more than seven months since Hawthorne’s 2020 meeting concluded.
The much-anticipated 2021 session gets under way Friday evening with a 7:10 first post after an absence of 229 days and this time with actual patrons at the racetrack.
The last time the harness racing public attended live racing at Hawthorne was 13 months ago, back in early March of 2020 before the dreadful Covis-19 virus put a halt to a vast majority of businesses across the country, and sadly closing too many of them for good.
Last year’s eight-month long expected racing meeting at Hawthorne never materialized. After a mid-February start only12 programs were conducted before the governors’ mandated Covid shut down the meet for over two months. The start back-up came quietly in early June when it arrived without any fans at the track.
As far as Hawthorne’s current attendance policy is concerned, “were at 50 percent indoor capacity and also at 50 percent outside (trackside),” said the track’s publicity director Jim Miller.
The dark cloud that hung over the 2020 meeting is slowly evaporating, so enjoy some fresh air and come on out for tonight’s opening racing program.
Elims Aplenty: Heading up the first Hawthorne Standardbred card of the year are six races of a trio of Summer Series elimination events. Sprinkled throughout the card are the Walter Paisley two divisions for pacing fillies and mares, along with a pair of the $12,000 Bea Farber and $11,000 Daryl Busse for trotters.
Each of Friday’s and Saturday’s “Summer Series” finals will be contested next weekend,
It’s Miller Time: Illinois Harness Racing Hall of Fame trainer Erv Miller has sent a few horses from his Wind Gap, Pennsylvania stable to Hawthorne for these five figure events. However, none of Erv’s horses drew inside in either trot event.
In the sixth race second Bea Farber elimination his Gucci Goo landed the seven-slot in a nine-horse field but still figures to be a major factor.
The $25,000 yearling purchase makes his three-year-old bow after a 1:58.2 qualifier on a “good” track at the Southern Oaks Training Center in Florida. Gucci Goo won his two-year-old debut at Hoosier in 1:59.1 but made breaks in 2 of his next 3 starts, finishing second in the other and Erv decided to shutdown the youngster.
In the first Daryl Busse elimination Miller’ trotters Allforone Hanover and Fox Valley Specter drew the nine and ten posts, respectively. Nevertheless, I expect Fox Valley Specter o get plenty of play. He was sent off the public’s choice in each of his first three career outings, posting a 1:56.4 victory at Hoosier last month.
In tonight’s second Busse division, Erv’s The Papa Bear will start from the second tier (behind the one-horse Look At Dat Kat) with post eleven and will need some racing luck with 10 trotters lined-up in front of driver Atlee Bender.